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Panda Wok remains closed

Restaurant needs repairs after fire

GREENVILLE — The Panda Wok in Greenville remains closed for repairs, two weeks after smoke from a small basement fire damaged the structure.

According to Fire Chief Charles Buttrick, fire crews were called out in the early morning hours of March 15, when a fire alarm in the empty building was triggered by smoke. When firefighters entered the building, the first floor was already inundated with smoke, Buttrick said, but there were no visible flames. Crews found the fire in the basement, where a television set and a portable heater were burning.

The exact origin of the fire has not been determined said Buttrick, although investigators believe it to be electrical in nature and likely sparking either from an extension cord plugged into the wall or from a portable space heater that was powered by the extension cord. The building had only minimal fire and water damage, said Buttrick, but the amount of smoke produced by the fire was disproportionate to the amount of flames. The fire was under control quickly, Buttrick said, although fire crews spent 45 minutes fighting the fire and checking the rest of the building in case the fire had spread.

“We searched the whole building. The fire was so small to match the amount of smoke in the building,” he said. “I wanted to err on the safe side. I didn’t want to find that [the fire] had gone up a wall or gotten into the attic, so we took our time before we placed the call ‘under control.’”

In hindsight, Buttrick said, it was likely the nature of the burning materials that led to the heavy smoke production.

After the Fire Department first responded Buttrick called out a second alarm, due to the time of night and the size of the building, he said. He downgraded it to a first alarm after later assessment.

At first, it was estimated that the restaurant would be closed for up to a week while the smoke damage was cleaned, but the process is taking longer than anticipated.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of reconstruction that needs to be done,” said Buttrick. “There was very little flame and fire damage. There was just massive smoke damage. Pretty much anything you touched, you would have black stuff on your fingers.”

Crews from New Ipswich, Mason and Wilton assisted at the scene during the fire. Crews from Lyndeborough and Temple dispatched at the second alarm, but returned to their stations upon the downgrading of the fire.

Attempts to reach the owners of the Panda Wok were unsuccessful.

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